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Young calls for Maryland Attorney General probe of Freddie Gray's death

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake along with Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts and Deputy Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez discuss the timeline of events that led to the death of Freddie Gray. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)

Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young is asking Gov. Larry Hogan to direct the Maryland Attorney General to conduct an independent investigation into the death of Freddie Gray.

"Residents of Baltimore, Md., and the broader nation are increasingly frustrated by the scant details surfacing around the mysterious death of Mr. Freddie Gray, who suffered a fatal spinal cord injury on April 12 while in police custody," Young wrote in a letter he sent Tuesday to the governor.

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The Democratic council president wrote that Baltimore residents want an "unbiased, independent investigation into the events that led to his tragic and untimely death."

Gray died Sunday, a week after he suffered a broken vertebra while in police custody. He was arrested near Gilmor Homes in Sandtown-Winchester, and police said Monday the injuries occurred while he was being transported by van to a district station. Police said the injuries were not consistent with the use of force.

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"As I draft this letter, the City of Baltimore faces a matter of public safety that threatens to further erode the public's full-faith and confidence in the men and women of the Baltimore Police Department who are sworn to protect and serve our citizens," Young said in the letter to the governor. "As a fellow elected official and steward of the public's trust, I know that you share my desire to provide citizens with a complete and speedy accounting of the events that led to Mr. Gray's death in order to provide his family and our citizens with much-needed answers.

"This investigation must be thorough and beyond reproach," the letter adds.

Kevin Harris, a spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, said the mayor has consistently been open to inviting outside agencies to help the city investigate actions by the Baltimore police.

The mayor and police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts invited the Justice Department last fall to open a two-year collaborative review of the department, which is being handled by the agency's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

"Like we've said all along we have no problems with an independent investigation," Harris said. "We have no problem with using all of the available tools at our disposal to try to gather all of the facts and information to determine what happened to Mr. Gray, and to do so in a way that the community has trust and faith in.

"If Gov. Hogan deems that this could be useful or could aid in this effort that is not something we would shy away from," Harris said.

Young was the first public official to call on the U.S. Department of Justice to open a civil rights investigation of the police department in October. That request came as a Baltimore Sun investigation revealed that residents have suffered broken bones and battered faces during arrests, and the city has paid $5.7 million in court judgments and settlements in 102 civil suits alleging police brutality since 2011.

Nearly all of the victims in incidents that sparked the lawsuits were cleared of criminal charges. The Sun also found that some city officers were involved in multiple lawsuits, and there were significant gaps in the systems used to monitor police misconduct.

Prior to sending the governor his letter, Young and other community and elected officials have repeated the request that the justice department conduct the more probing civil rights investigation.

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